Law News

Hounslow Council halts plans to introduce landlords licensing scheme

Em Morley - September 9, 2019

Hounslow Council has u-turned on plans for a licensing scheme for landlords following representations by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and Safeagent (formerly the National Approved Letting Scheme – NALS).

The Council’s cabinet agreed on 9th July to proceed with the plan to introduce an additional licensing scheme for landlords.

The Council was threatened with a judicial review by the RLA, stating that there were flaws in the consultation it ran to establish the scheme. The RLA has listed the following issues with the consultation:

  • It failed to provide any information upon which the plans for the scheme were being made.
  • No information was provided to prove the ineffective management of Houses of Multiple Occupation for which such schemes are generally used.  
  • It failed to outline, as is required by law, how such a licencing scheme would be consistent with the council’s housing strategy and what conclusions the councils had reached about potential alternative ways of addressing the problems this scheme was seeking to address.
  • Whilst the consultation proposed that the scheme be adopted across the whole Borough it made reference to applying it across a smaller area without giving respondents to the consultation any information about what this might look like. This gave the clear impression that the Council had made up its mind before the consultation began.
  • Although much of the information about the above was presented to the Council’s cabinet, these papers could not be found on the authority’s website for respondents to access.  

The Council’s lawyers have now contacted the RLA to confirm that it will not take forward the decision by the Cabinet to introduce the additional licencing scheme, and will now reconsider the way forward, including carrying out a new consultation.

David Smith, Policy Director for the Residential Landlords Association, said: “We welcome today’s news. Hounslow Council had failed to consult on its plans properly. We are glad that they have had the courage to admit this and think again.

“Rather than seeking to re-consult on its proposals, the Council should consider the reality that they can already access a wealth of information on landlords from council tax returns, tenancy deposit schemes and the electoral roll. 

“Instead of tying up good landlords with red tape whilst the criminals continue operating under the radar, the Council needs to develop proper enforcement strategies focussed on rooting out those who bring the sector into disrepute. Licensing does not achieve this.”

Isobel Thomson, Chief Executive, Safeagent, added: “This is a victory for common sense – we are pleased Hounslow Council took on board the issues we raised about the validity of their proposed scheme.  It is important that Councils do not just automatically view licensing as the panacea for all ills in the PRS.  

“There are other existing options at their disposal which could be used more sensibly and would not involve the cost or the level of administration that licensing does.”